OK, this is a site dedicated to Chick Flicks. But since I am trying to redefine the meaning of that term, I am going to talk about one of the best shows on TV, AMC’s original series, Mad Men.takes place in the 1960’s. Before the Woman’s Movement, Civil Rights or pantyhose. It is compelling to watch this reconstructed 1960’s world through our 21st-century eyes.
The show looks back on the Kennedy-Nixon Presidential race, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Civil Rights Movement with an unapologetic eye. It’s also interesting to see how Madison Avenue tries to sell products that are brand new but are not yet household names. For instance, the dilemma of how to market Clearasil. “That’s for teenagers with bad skin. Who cares about them.”
In the world of Mad Men, a woman’s place is at home. If you are one of those women who have to work, expect to live and die as a secretary. Not an admin or executive assistant, but a secretary. A secretary who types on a typewriter makes her boss’s phone calls, takes shorthand, and mixes his drinks. Also expect to be pinched, ogled, hit on and generally sexualized by the men in the office. And you take it because the term sexual harassment is 30 years in your future. Remember the dark ages ladies, when you had good ideas and told them to your male boss and he took credit for all your hard work. But the beauty of this show is we know how this is all going to change and we are watching it unfold in a brilliantly written and wonderfully acted series.
If you are not watching this incredible show, let me tell you what you are missing.
The handsome actor Jon Hamm plays the lead character, Donald Draper. A successful advertising executive working on Madison Avenue, with a beautiful Barbie doll of a wife, two cute children and a boatload of issues, Don Draper is a charming womanizer, with a brilliant creative mind and a secret past. This super-confident ladies man is actually Dick Whitman, the illegitimate son of a prostitute.
Don Draper is the man all the women want and all the men want to be. Jon Hamm plays him perfectly and he delivers Don Draperisms through a wisp of cigarette smoke with a shot of scotch, and the cynicism of a man with nothing to lose.
January Jones is the perfect blond Barbie-Doll housewife, Betty Draper. She has everything any woman in 1962 could ask for: a big house in the suburbs, 2.5 kids (Bobby and Sally and one on the way) a handsome and successful husband and yet she is not happy. Betty is a complicated woman, trying to be what people expect of her, but there is a fire in her eyes. A fire that will be burning bras in about 10 years.
Elizabeth Moss plays the naive young career girl Peggy Olsen. She starts out as the secretary of Don Draper. After Peggy comes up with a slogan for a lipstick campaign, Don Draper promotes her to jr. Copywriter. What a commotion that caused in the office.
Is she sleeping with Don? Who does she think she is? A woman copywriter? That’s the gossip going around the steno-pool.
The other women in the office aren’t so happy about Peggy’s new position either. They show her what they think of her by setting up her office in the supply closet with the new (very large and very loud) Xerox machine. Peggy is smart and ambitious and dying to escape her strict Catholic upbringing.
Joan Holloway is a woman who knows how to use her assets. Christina Hendricks plays the sexy, shapely executive secretary Joan Holloway, a smart woman who understands the ins and outs of the Sterling Cooper Agency. Joan is the person that makes things happen in the office. However, because she is a gorgeous redhead with the body of Marilyn Monroe, she is stuck in that role.
For instance, when Harry needed an assistant to help with ad campaigns for the newly formed television division, Joan pitched some really great ideas. You just knew she was hoping for the kind of job upgrade Peggy Olsen had, but they hired a man to fill the position. Well, you guessed it. Back poor Joan went to her typewriter, but only after she trained the man who was replacing her.
Talk about retro. The vintage 1960’s clothes on Mad Men are to die for. These were the days when women dressed up to go shopping and men wore suits, ties, and hats. You could scour every vintage store in town and not find the incredible blue form-fitting dress that Joan wore in Season 1; or the gorgeous chiffon cocktail dress that Betty wore when she and Don had dinner Barretts.
Designer Janie Bryant’s attention to detail makes you think you are really in the 60’s. The hairstyles, clothes and even the body type of the actresses are totally in line with the times. I read an article recently that said the producers of the show want January Jones to gain more weight because women were curvier and voluptuous in those days. If only they could bring back the old days.